Volunteering At The Food Bank

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Each month, 400,000 residents turn to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for emergency and supplemental food. Many of our neighbors are unable to make ends meet and the Food Bank helps them cover one of life’s basic needs – nutritious food. According to the Food Bank’s mission, they strive to “serve all people experiencing hunger or food insecurity in Solano and Contra Costa counties and commit to never turn anyone away.”

Through a partnership with Feeding America, a non-profit network of 200 food banks and the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, the food bank lends support to hunger-fighting organizations in 18 Northern California counties. This graphic sums up the great work they do:

So, at the end of May, I was meeting my client for a staging consult and was thinking of all the things I needed to get the house ready for the market. I came up to a stop sign where there had been cars ahead of me, and apparently I did a rolling stop. I had checked for cars, but there were none at the intersection. A motorcycle police officer was out of sight watching the intersection and I got a moving violation ticket for $275. Going to traffic school would cost $303, so I asked if I could do community service instead. They gave me 10 hours. And that is how I found myself volunteering at the food bank.

I was very impressed with how well-run and organized it is. You have to fill out information to be approved. They do not take felons, for example. The distribution area is in Concord near Highway 4. On average, volunteers do 2-3 hour shifts, which vary depending on what you sign up for. There are tasks like bagging big boxes or 25 pounds of fruit and vegetables into smaller individual bags, boxing of dry goods, and handing out food at senior communities or other places.

Here is some information I found interesting: one in four people in Contra Costa County have food insecurity. The fruit and vegetables are donated by the farmers or grocery stores for being “rejects” (think, too big, blemishes, etc.), however the food bank has to pay for the shipping of the items to their warehouse, at a cost of about 18 cents per pound (primarily paid for with donations). This all came about a few years ago when the federal government gave the stores/farmers a tax break on the donated food.

All the food that is donated from various food drives, like the one I do in my neighborhood during Walnut Creek’s Community Service Day each year, gets sent out to their partner organizations that help feed those in need (churches, other non-profits, etc.). They also contribute packages to those in need when there is a disaster, such as the wildfires that engulfed parts of Northern California in recent years.

The crew that sets up, organizes volunteers, and takes away the boxes of bagged food is extremely helpful. I have seen corporate groups come in for a two-hour volunteer shift with their employees to do group community outreach (I suspect the companies pay the employees for their time during business hours!). I have seen families that make it a monthly volunteer activity to come in. And, of course, there were other traffic offenders there. If you are really reckless with your driving, you might get 150 hours of required community service. What a great way to give a speeding teenager a reality check when they have to spend all summer at the food bank!

I have bagged potatoes, onions, oranges, apples, and carrots at my shifts. The carrots were the most difficult because they are pointy and get stuck in the mesh bags we pack them in. I will most likely continue to volunteer at the food bank once a month from now on. I didn’t mean to get there, but I’m glad it happened because the work is really rewarding.

Please Consider Donating!

Walnut Creek’s Community Service Day is this Saturday, October 14th. The giving season is underway, and if you are considering donating, I ask that you please consider doing so to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. More and more people need help and there are some great sales on the items on the shopping list below. Your generous donations are greatly appreciated!

If you would like to take part, there are four options for giving:

  1. Give a bag of food from your home: put a bag of food in clear view at the end of your driveway by 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
  2. Donate at any Walnut Creek Safeway: money and food can be donated at any location from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Saturday.
  3. Call Kristin: you can call me to pick up your donation or drop it off at my house (190 Arlene Dr., Walnut Creek), as long as it’s done by 10 a.m. on Saturday.
  4. Give online: finally, you can donate by visiting www.walnut-creek.org/service!

Please note that the Food Bank can not take glass items, and that they prefer to receive items listed on the poster. Help us fight hunger now!